6 Fantasy Football Stars to Start or Sit on Sunday, Week 7
Thursday's Seattle-San Francisco game was ugly for fantasy purposes, but we knew that going in. The rest of the world awaits with hurried breath for this week's slate of games, with some solid matchups for key fantasy players. One of them, Robert Griffin III, even has the single-highest projection numberFire has spit out in our three years of crunching the numbers.
But that's not why you're here; if you have RGIII, you're starting him. It's the middle ground guys, the borderline starters, that you want to know about. We already covered some playing today back a few days ago, including Denarius Moore, Steve Johnson, Shonn Greene, and Alex Green. But here's six more guys we're keyed in on for this week's action.
Fantasy Football Best Starts/Must Sits Week 7
Ben Roethlisberger - Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 7: 19.53 Projected Points (#3 Ranked QB)
Percent Started: 41.1%
Verdict: Start Him
I may have spent my Wednesday morning making a case for why this man should be the current front-runner for MVP. You expect me to say that he should sit now?
All he has done this season is add more value to his team than any other single player in the league, tie for the NFL lead in interceptions, throw up a sixth-ranked 297 passing yards per game despite throwing 20 less passes than anybody else in the top five, average two touchdowns per game, and have more fantasy points in five games than Joe Flacco, Michael Vick, or Cam Newton have in sixth. And not to mention (and this deserved its own sentence), he plays numberFire's #26 opponent-adjusted defense this week. But go ahead, sit him. Make up your own reasoning. And watch horrified as the stats stare you down and he approaches his projected 19.43 Fantasy Points (FP).
Matthew Stafford - Detroit Lions
Week 7: 13.52 Projected Points (#17 Ranked QB)
Percent Started: 61.2%
Verdict: Sit Him
Matthew Stafford has averaged 19 FP over the Lions' past three games. That's not bad. In order to get that number, he has had to face the murderer's row of Tennessee (numberFire's #30 opponent-adjusted defense), Minnesota (#20), and Philadelphia (#6). That Philadelphia game from last week looks increasingly like an outlier, especially compared to the two top-ten defenses Stafford faced earlier this season. Against San Francisco (#3) and St. Louis (#9), he could only muscle out 12 FP a piece.
"But maybe he's turned a corner!" you may say. Perhaps you're right. But that still does not make him a good start against the #1 opponent-adjusted defense in the entire league. The Bears have given up an average of five (FIVE?!?) FP to opposing starting QBs so far this year. The only one to reach double-digits was Aaron Rodgers, back in Week 2. He had 10.
Jonathan Dwyer - Pittsburgh Steelers
Week 7: 7.97 Projected Points (#23 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 2.3%
Verdict: Flex Him
Round and round the musical chairs go, where they will stop, nobody knows! So Mendenhall and Redman are both out once again for this game, and for the first time in a while, Jonathan Dwyer will receive the start for the Pittsburgh Steelers. Do I trust anybody in the Steelers' backfield enough to be one of my top two running backs? No. If you need help, especially on a bye week, can Dwyer be a serviceable flex candidate? Absolutely.
The Pittsburgh Steelers may throw the ball like an Arena League team - 65% of all plays against the Titans last week and 61% of all plays on the season - but that's not the way the Bengals have been beaten this season. The Cleveland Browns took their first win of the season last week against Cincy; they ran the ball on 51% of their plays to do it. The week before, the Dolphins picked up a win against their land-animal brethren; they ran the ball 57% of the time. And the Ravens walloped Cincy in week 1; only 42% of all Ravens passes were runs, but 55% of all plays (including passes to backs) involved a running back in some form. You know the Steelers have seen the tapes; expect a big dose of Dwyer this Sunday. Quantity over quality.
Mikel LeShoure - Detroit Lions
Week 7: 9.94 Projected Points (#16 Ranked RB)
Percent Started: 27.3%
Verdict: Start Him
Any thoughts of a Lions timeshare are gone. Mikel LeShoure has now at least 13 rushing attempts in every Lions game since he's come back from injury/supsension/saving little children on the streets of Detroit: he's averaging 18 rushing attempts per game. Meanwhile, backup Joique Bell has had 13 carries total in those three weeks, posing very little threat to the LeShoure juggernaut. LeShoure has not been the most effective back, as his -0.23 NEP per rush can attest, but his 33% success rate means he's converting when it counts and extending drives. And although the lack of touchdowns is disheartening, they will come soon; numberFire has him projected for 0.43 total TDs this week.
But I know that the main argument for sitting LeShoure won't be him personally, but rather his terrible matchup. However, those scary, scary Bears might be more of the Berenstein variety than the Grizzly variety. Maurice Jones-Drew averaged 4.7 yards per carry against them in the Bears' last game, Week 5. Cedric Benson put up 4.1 yards per carry in Week 2. And Donald Brown put up 5.3 yards per carry on nine attempts against them in Week 1. Rushing yards, if not scores, can in fact be amassed on this Bears team. It's all about getting the attempts. And numberFire projects LeShoure to have 12.56 of them on Monday.
Miles Austin - Dallas Cowboys
Week 7: 10.49 Projected Points (#13 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 55.5%
Verdict: Start Him
Miles Austin was already a solid start for this week. You have a passing team's (62% of offensive plays are passes) big play option (team-leading five catches of 20+ yards) seeing nearly seven targets a game (6.6 to be exact) and facing a Carolina defense prone to giving up big days (27 points or more given up in three of the last four games). What's not to like?
But Austin jumped from "Start" to "How quick can I get to my fantasy lineup?" with the release of Friday's injury report, which downgraded leading targets man Dez Bryant from Probable to Questionable. Now, Austin looks poised to lead America's Team in targets once again, just like he did in Weeks 2 and 3. Seeing as how at least one Cowboys receiver has gone off for double-digits in every single game so far this season, and Austin has done it in three of his four games, you would be crazy not to start him this week.
Randall Cobb - Green Bay Packers
Week 7: 5.16 Projected Points (#23 Ranked WR)
Percent Started: 24.6%
Verdict: Sit Him
Randall Cobb's outlook changed after Friday's injury reports as well, when Greg Jennings was ruled out for Monday's game. It went from "I will laugh at you if you start him" to "You won't get made fun of, but it's still an extremely poor idea".
As I mention just about every week in this space, it's usually not a good call to trust any individual Packers receiver other than Jordy Nelson. Many people will go off of Cobb's 10-target performance from last week, but in the four weeks before that, Cobb had 16 targets combined. On average, Packers fans saw Rodgers looking at Raji in State Farm commercials than they saw Rodgers looking for Cobb out on the field. And the lack of targets from Weeks 2 through 5 cannot be attributed to Jennings, either; Jennings missed two of those four games, just like the one he'll miss this Sunday. Meanwhile, James Jones has developed into a steady target for Rodgers near the end zone, Jermichael Finley looks to be more involved in the offense, and Tom Crabtree received three targets last week.
And in case your cheesehead-addled brain is still thinking about starting Cobb, the Rams have given up double digit fantasy points to exactly one receiver in the past four weeks. That was Miami's Marlon Moore, who had three receptions, 46 yards, and a touchdown last week. Both Bess and Hartline were absolutely shut down, just like the scores of receivers (including Larry Fitzgerald and Brandon Marshall) before them.